Synopsis 4×18: The various agents must deal with where their regrets, or lack there of, are leading them, with May and Fitz perhaps facing the most severe repercussions. 

Coulson’s Framework existence seems to quickly be shed in favor of the SHIELD life he truly leads, while he and the Patriot stage a car crash, hoping to stop a Hydra prisoner transport with Daisy and another inside. The two discuss the various personalities around them with Patriot expressing serious concerns about Jemma and what she could be hiding, as well as concern over Ward’s overall attitude since Fitz shots Agnes in last week’s episode. 

The transport bus pulls up assuming that the crash might require assistance, only to be taken down by Coulson and Mace. Inside, there are no prisoners, only body bags.

While Daisy is, thankfully, not in one of the body bags, she is still being held in a Hydra detention facility where she is regularly beaten and interrogated. When Fitz comes to her, it is clear that his understanding has been severely corrupted by Aida, as he believes that Daisy and Jemma are in this, “the real world,” in order to destroy Hydra, since they managed to destroy it in their own.

“The carrot or the stick. When neither motivates the truth, we face unspeakable choices.”

Also within Hydra, May reminisces over the incident with the little girl. When Aida approaches her with a “risky” mission, she replies, “it’s only a risk if you have something to lose.”  In removing May’s one major regret, Aida’s actually given her an entirely new, and more intense, one. She and Fitz are perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of this storyline, as they’ve become so much worse without the moral compass that a regret offered them.

Mack begins working with SHIELD, clearly still maintaining his technological savvy, and putting it to good use with the acquired Hydra vehicle that Coulson and the Patriot had retrieved.

While somehow Mace became the Patriot in the Framework as a literal Inhuman, Hydra still mirrored the real world by creating the serum, and offering it to May.

Jemma is perhaps the most complicated character in the Framework. Rather than accepting that the people honestly believe themselves to have lives, she often begrudges the reality she is now kept in, holding it against many of her compatriots that they are unaware of the futility of this Framework fight. She attempts to bring Ward and Mace in on what is really occurring, but succeeds in only laying seeds of doubt about what she perceives to be reality. Ward beautifully illustrates the truth of the Framework when the two stare at Mack and Hope, pointing out that there is no way that isn’t real, on some level at least. The Patriot truly believes that nothing he is doing, in the real world or otherwise, is meaningless.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Fitz continues to interrogate Daisy, but points out to Aida that it is peculiar that she hasn’t broken, even under the most cruel of tortures. And interestingly enough, this scene provides us another glimpse into Fitz, as we realize that perhaps, like Coulson, there is some serious bleed through of his memories. This is not the first time that he either quoted something he had said or done in the real world, or something that occurred within it. Perhaps there is hope for Hydra-Fitz yet. Perhaps the team can draw him back and away from the things he has done, when much of his identity was stripped away.

Aida sends Fitz to deal with another project so that she can interact, alone, with Daisy. She says that she simply replaced a regret and let the world run its course. Radcliffe yells at Aida through the wall about her being a “psycho-bitch,” to which Aida responds with guards. In an attempt to win Daisy over to the Framework, she offers her a life with Lincoln, where she can live out her life happily. With no regrets.

“Sometimes what people want isn’t right for them.”

Daisy knows all too well what can come of wants and desires. She found her father. And lost him. She found her mother. And was almost killed. Wants and desires can’t be the only thing that guides us.

But Aida disagrees. All she wants is choice. All she wants is free will.

In the lab, Fitz sits contemplatively until his thoughts are interrupted by an older, but no less Scottish accent. “You look troubled, son.” Fitz’ father is alive in the Framework, and guiding him towards evil, something Fitz always feared. “That’s your mother talking.” He expresses his concern over killing Agnes as it was perhaps unnecessary. The regret, much like with May, is building. With one regret removed, but a life created that is so counter to an individual’s soul, there can be nothing but regrets.

Utilizing the bus that they stole and that Mack reworked, Coulson and the Team (that feels good to say), arrive at a Hydra enlightenment cultivation center. At the facility, Coulson and the Patriot begin to release prisoners, finding Trip in their midst. And my heart broke a little. (In much the same way that the last season of Lost nearly killed me.)

Receiving a report that one of the Hydra facilities had an unscheduled delivery, May is injected with the Patriot serum and leaves to go and find him. However, at the facility, May  will be faced with a terrible dilemma, saving kids or killing the Patriot. When she allows some of the imprisoned kids to escape, she continues on until she finds the room, which is collapsing after a Hydra bombing.

The Patriot sits beneath a beam, holding up the structure in order to save a kid, while also keeping the structure in place so the team can escape. Ward tries to reason with her that they will all die if Mace is killed, but it is Coulson, calmly referring to her as May, which seems to draw her out of her Hydra shell.

“Snap out of it, May.”

When Mace can no longer hold the structure, he is crushed beneath it, where, in the real world, Aida forlornly turns off his monitor. Mace is gone. In the Framework and real world. At least he died how he would have desired. He was finally the Patriot that a photo incorrectly made him out to be.

May, upon finding Daisy in her cell, asks if it’s true that she is an Inhuman. Daisy responds with all the vinegar she can muster that “yes. Strong enough to bring this whole damn place down.” With a sinister grin, May drops a terrigen crystal at her feet. Aida is losing her grip within the Framework.

As some final thoughts:

Jemma is driving me a little crazy. She is so convinced that the Framework isn’t real that she shows very little concern for the people around her, even those who are real. Like how can she so cooly tell Mace that his reality in the Framework isn’t real, when it is motivation and empowering him to at least continue on?

The appearance of both Ward and Trip within the Framework have me a little concerned for the return to the “real world.” Both of them were such strong and compelling characters that its hard to imagine losing them again, and losing the strength of the team like what happened when they both exited the show originally.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Mack will choose to stay in the Framework. I simply can’t imagine him sacrificing his daughter. That might be a little too “Silence in the Library,” but that’s where I see it going.

Finally, I love the political undertones of this storyline. The entire fear and destruction of the Inhumans is a mirror of current dialogue about immigration and minorities. I appreciate that Marvel/ABC is attempting to broach some of those subjects through their more “family friendly” show, much like they have regularly done in the Netflix series. 

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